Thursday, 30 June 2011

Author Spotlight - AR Norris talks about her favorite authors

Author HG Wells

I have a lots of favorite authors, and all for different reasons. It's so hard to choose Isaac Asimov and H.G. Wells were awesome and triggered my love of possibility and obsession of the future. (And it is an obsession.) Edgar Allan Poe, Stephen King, and Dean Koontz got me excited about speculative fiction and a love for the "sense of other". Jane Austen really touched my romantic side.

The richness and visual they wrote out on paper filled my lower class world with action and adventure. I didn't need anything other than a secondhand book to lose myself in. Edgar Allan Poe was the first time I remember crying over a story and understanding what it meant to write with feeling and emotion. Stephen King was the first time I remember having to sleep with the lamp on after I grew out of being afraid of the dark. And Dean Koontz introduced me to real characters caught up in amazing situations. Jane Austen was the first writer to make me sigh and hope to be swooned by a boy.

When I decided to become a writer, these authors taught me an even more important lesson. All of them were dedicated to their craft. They submerged themselves in their genre and researched every aspect. As an example, Isaac was so focused on his imaginary world he could write in a bare white room and still churn out a wonderful, colorful story that explored future concepts and the consequences of today's actions. Edgar Allan Poe was so dedicated he focused only on writing, at the cost of financial stability.


Steph: You know I LOVED HG Wells. I haven't read him per se, but we all know how his stories inspired the muse. I just wanted to let you know that I get as giddy as you when I think about him.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Author Spotlight - AR Norris talks about her favorite movie

Oh my goodness, Steph! You're killing me. How can I choose just one? Just one! *Deep breath*

All right. I have to say, if I were tied up, the evil interrogator, Mistress Stephanie, taking pliers to my fingers to break them. The air thick with the recent shock treatment...oh, wait, sorry. I veered off into my daydream.

I'm back. *Eyes Steph suspiciously*

Off the top of my head, my favorite movie is Stand by Me. I love Richard Dreyfuss' voice as the narrator. The friendship between the boys was endearing. They each had their faults and loved each other anyways. Stephen King had a way with words that the screenwriter translated well into the movie version. It's one of the only book to movie scenarios I've seen that actually keeps the intent and purpose of the book in a satisfying way.

Most of all, the movie inspires and reminds me of the summer adventures and those friends before hitting high school. Every time I watch it I get a good dose of nostalgia.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Author Spotlight - AR Norris talks about her love for Sci-Fi Romance

Why I write SFR. It's a two part answer that has morphed over the generations. The equation is easy: SF + R = SFR.

First the SF part. That one is pretty easy to answer. I write science fiction because that is where my creativity automatically goes. If I think of a woman going on a hero's journey, it's in space. If I think of a man trying to find his father, he finds him on an alien planet. I wake up in the morning from a dream and my husband listens to the galactic adventure I went on through the night.

The second part, romance, is a little more winding. I wanted to write and read stories that had the characters and story at the front and the science as the backdrop, by which the world is enhanced. Unfortunately, by the late 80s and early 90s SF had really boxed itself in. The stories available in bookstores were science heavy with the characters and story as a backdrop. Most of the pages were filled with expounding theories and physics and blah, blah, blah. I didn't care! I wanted the characters to use the dang technology without explaining it to the tenth degree. But then I found the hidden secret.

Science fiction writers, ones who really cared about the human element of the story, were publishing in romance. "Those little sneaky sneaks!" Romance really saved SF, just like they saved paranormal and fantasy. It was easy to fold into the romance world. I mean, who doesn't want a HEA?

Monday, 27 June 2011

Author Spotlight - Q&A with Author AR Norris

STEPH: I don't know much about Duty and Devotion. Can you tell me a little more about it?

AR: Duty and Devotion is a science fiction romance set in the distant future and follows two sisters raised in the safety of Earth's domes after they are drafted into war. Older sister Nettie heads off to space pilot training for war. There she discovers her true strength and also that love sometimes is hidden in a friendship and grows slowly. Younger sister Rinny goes to Mars for surface combat training and learns to try new experiences and stretch who she is beyond expectations. She learns that knowing who you are and who you love means nothing if you’re not willing to fight for it…even to the death.

Here's the book trailer I did for it:

STEPH: How long did it take to write?

AR: Oh boy, that's a tricky one. I've been working on some version of this story for decades. I guess, though, you could say my serious work to prepare it for publication submission took a little over a year...maybe a year and a half.

STEPH: Did you do a lot of research for the novel?

AR: Geez, did I! With all books it takes research to be accurate. But I'll say, SF buffs can be super critical...and they're usually super smart about science and technology. They'll catch a formula or engineering mistake in a second and then you've lost all credibility.

STEPH: Where did the inspiration for the story come from?

AR: It was inspired by a dream. Though, looking back there were a couple triggers. First, my stepfather was in the Vietnam War and really had post war troubles that affected our family. Also, the Gulf War was happening at the same time (early 1990s). Those probably had something to do with the dream.

STEPH: If your story was going to be made into a movie, who would you cast as the leads?

AR: Argh! I can never think of actors. Okay, okay...let's see...Nettie would maybe be Kristy Swanson (from the original Buffy movie). Rinny would be Monica Bellucci (Persephone in The Matrix Reloaded). James Northman...well, he can never be anything other than my husband. (LOL! Sorry, no acting abilities but he's a great storyteller.) Daniel Gubvre would be Jack Shepherd (Lost).

STEPH: What is the theme of the novel?

AR: The major themes of the book are keeping family bonds and finding romantic love during the chaos of war.

STEPH: What do you want readers to take away from the novel when they finish it?

AR: If they have a sibling I want them to call and say, "I love you..." Ha ha! Just kidding. Well, you know every authors dream is to have the reader turn the last page and be bummed the story is already over...and think about what's going to happen the characters after.

STEPH: Do you have an ebook reader? If so, which one?

AR: ((Hugs Kindle)) Have I mentioned before how much I love my husband? He bought me the Kindle 3G for Christmas last year. I love, love, love it.

STEPH: What's the last movie you saw?

AR: Prince of Persia. It was very good...oh, now that I think of it, maybe Jake Gyllenhaal should be Danny. He was in the movie. Yes, yes. I'm changing my answer in question 5 above.

STEPH: Any words of wisdom for aspiring writers?

AR: Be open to learning. There's so much to the craft and it's a constant medium. Take pride out of the equation and be open to criticism and comments from reliable people (not friends and family, they'll never be fully honest with you...they love you too much).

Buy Link for Duty & Devotion:

Friday, 24 June 2011

Author Spotlight - Excerpt from Resurrection by Jennifer Hartz

Enjoy this excerpt from Jenn Hartz's latest release, Resurrection. Leave a comment here and I'll pick a winner to receive a copy of either Book 1 or Book 2 of the series, Future Savior curesty of Jennifer. Both Jenn and I hope you've enjoyed your visit to Meric this week. I'll pick the winner on Monday 27 June and post an announcement on the DB Connections Yahoo Group so you have the wweekend to enjoy the excerpt.

Moderator Steph


After everything I had witnessed during my days in Meric, from learning to use amazing powers, fighting in a war, being attacked by literal monsters, meeting Elves, and the myriad of other things that had happened to me, the addition of time travel wasn't too hard to swallow. However, something still didn't make sense.

"But why am I this age again? Even if I traveled through time, wouldn't I have maintained the same age?"

"That's a good point," Shaw said gazing far off and I could tell he was contemplating every angle of the situation in his head. I looked closely at his face for the first time since being here. It was so strange to realize it was Shaw hidden in the body of this teenage boy. The amazing silvery blue eyes were the same, but everything else was different. Now I was really thinking about it I was becoming a bit uneasy and I desperately wanted to see Shaw's real face.

"Shaw," I asked, "could you do something for me?"

"Hmm," he replied not looking at me still lost somewhere in his thoughts, working out our dilemma.

"Could you change into your real self?"

This got his attention and he looked at me with great curiosity.

"Why?" he demanded.

I realized at that moment I possessed something incredible. I possessed future knowledge. I also realized I had to be painstakingly careful with this knowledge. Shaw had no idea how I felt about him. He had no idea I was in s love with him. In fact, I had no clue if he was in love with me during this time in my life. Maybe his love for me didn't develop until later. If I told him now how I felt, who knows what kind of implications that would have on future events. I realized I had to guard everything I said to him from here on out. What if I alter a future event so much it hurts someone I care about? This was going to be difficult.

"Um... it's just weird talking to you when you look like this," I finally replied.

Part of me really wanted to tell him that gazing into his face was the only thing I wanted to do right before I died and now, that I was not actually dead, I wanted to look at his face for the rest of my life. But I figured that would be a bit much for him to handle especially since he had no clue how I truly feel about him.

"Alright," he said and I watched in amazement as the good-looking teenager, Alex Lamont, amazingly transformed into the most handsome man in the world right before my eyes.

"Is that better?" he asked.

"Yes, thank you," I said grinning at him, but I couldn't help it. I was just so elated to see him properly.

"You know," Shaw began returning his gaze back out the window, deep in concentration, "I have a theory I'd like you to try out. I think I may know why you're young again, but I want you to try something. I'm guessing you had powers in Meric, right?"
"Yeah... how did you know that?"

"You're the prophesied Savior and you're King Davis' daughter. Of course you have powers," he said as if this were the most common thing in the world. "What powers did you have?"

"Well I had visions of the past and future and I could move things with my mind," I replied.

"Telekinesis, that's good. Alright, I want you to try and move something right now."

"But I didn't have powers when I was seventeen. I didn't develop them until I entered Meric when I was thirty."

"Just try," he urged.

I rolled my eyes. What was he expecting? This wasn't going to work. I looked out the window and noticed Shaw had pulled the car over right next to a cow pasture. We were in a very rural part of town. There was a wooden fence containing about three-dozen chocolate brown cows. The grass was a lush green and there were some large oak trees dotted along the rolling hills of the pasture.

I got out of the car and Shaw followed me. I looked out over the pasture and wondered if this was really going to work. I sincerely doubted it, but I decided to humor Shaw. I focused my attention on a small calf not far from where we were standing and I raised my hand in a sweeping motion towards it. Then, much to my astonishment, everything in the entire field, cows, fence posts, trees, and rocks as far as the eye could see shot like a rocket a good twenty feet straight up into the air.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Author Spotlight - Character Interview with Christina Vaughn from Future Savior

It’s me again, Christina Vaughn. I hope you enjoyed my interview of Charis the prophet yesterday… because I didn’t. I love that women, but sometimes her cryptic ways can be downright infuriating! Today I’m talking with Shaw. Let’s see if this goes any better than yesterday.

Christina: So tell me Shaw, you have been my Watcher since the day I was born. What has been the most difficult thing about your job?

Shaw: Keeping my distance from you. As a Watcher I am suppose to protect your life, but not interfere. That became far more difficult when you left Pittsburgh and entered Meric.

Christina: I see, and you’re a shape shifter too. You can change your appearance to look like other people. How many different people have you been in the course of your life?

Shaw: Too many to count.

Christina: You once rescued the Elf prince Jonus from an enemy army and defeated more than a thousand soldiers to do it.
Would you care to talk about that?

Shaw: I don’t want to talk about that.

Christina: Oh… okay… well, I can’t help but notice that you are extremely fit and muscular. How much can you bench press?
Shaw: Well, I never maxed myself out on the bench press during my time in Pittsburgh, but I can say that I’ve been known to heave five hundred pound Leviathans off of me during battle.

Christina: Hmm… that’s impressive. Now, what about your parents? Can you tell me anything about them?

Shaw: I don’t remember my parents. I was sent to live with the Elves when I was young.

Christina: What about my dad, King Davis. Can you tell me anything about him?

Shaw: Not really. Can we talk about something else? I really don’t like discussing my past.

Christina: Sure thing, Shaw. We need to wrap this up anyway. Well… at least that was a bit better than when I talked to Charis!


Resurrection's Desert Breeze Page:

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Author Spotlight - Character Interview with Christina Vaughn from Future Savior

Hey everybody, Christina Vaughn here. You probably know me as the Savior of Meric. Which, quite frankly, is a title I’d much rather not have. But all of that craziness aside, I’ve finally caught up with Charis the Prophet and she’s giving me one chance to ask a few questions… not that she’ll answer any of them. I’m sure she’ll just give me her usual cryptic answer, but it’s worth a shot.

Christina: Okay so Charis, you’re a prophet. What is your most famous prophesy?

Charis: I would have to say the prophesy I had about you, my dear Christina. I had a vision that King Davis and Queen Lorna would have a child and that child would bring about the end of Leticia’s evil reign.

Christina: Yeah, and after everything that has happened, do you still think this is true?

Charis: I have never had a false prophesy.

Christina: Hmm… well, what about my friends? Will everyone be okay? I love Shaw. What’s going to happen to him? What about Jonus and Beliza and Matthias and Markella?

Charis: My dear Christina, too much knowledge about the future is never safe. I think it is best if you simply let the events of the future unfold they way they are suppose to.

Christina: You do know that I have visions of the future too? I might be able to see what happens to my friends.

Charis: Oh yes and you must decide what to do with any knowledge the Creator decides to grant you. Our visions come from Him. He only lets us see what He wants us to see. You may find that you have knowledge you cannot share with someone you care for.

Christina: Well that’s great Charis and I was worried you’d be vague about things.

Future Savior is avail as an ebook for Kindle, Sony, Nook, Kobo and at AlL Romance ebooks.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Author Spotlight - Jennifer Hartz talks about the origins of Future Savior

While having a conversation with one of my students, I said something that would make my already busy life a heck of lot busier! We were discussing The Twilight Saga. As you know, most teenage girls love Twilight, I actually enjoyed the books too, but we talking about how we were slightly disappointed with the forth book in the series. I eventually said, "I certainly can't judge Stephanie Myers because I haven't written a book let alone a bestselling mega smash series." This got me to thinking. I have always wanted to write a novel – it has been a lifelong dream – why not give it a shot. That day, while driving home from work, I started thinking about all of the books, movies, and TV shows I loved. I pulled out elements from all of these things that really captured my attention and slowly they morphed into my own fantasy realm.

For three months my daydreams continued as I drove back and forth from work. I have an hour and a half commute – three hours a day in the car – so my fantasy story really grew, and grew quickly. The storylines became more and more intricate and the personalities of my characters really started to take on lives of their own. Finally, summer rolled around and my fingers finally met the keys. Writing was the easy part since I had such a structured skeleton to work with. In the two and a half months of summer break I was able to write the entire 78,000 word novel that is now Future Savior Book One: Conception and now Future Savior Book Two: Resurrection has just been released. Future Savior may not be a “bestselling mega smash series”, but I’m still thrilled with it so far!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Author Spotlight - Q&A with Jennifer Hartz

STEPH: Jenn's latest release is Resurrection, Future Savior, Book 2. Can you tell me a little more about it?

JENN:1. The adventure in Meric Continues! The story of Future Savior was far too large for one book. As the story developed in my head I realized that it could easily be broken down into five parts. Future Savior Book Two: Resurrection is simply the second installment of the story. At the end of Future Savior Book One: Conception we were left hanging… or the lead character Christina was literally left hanging from a tree and presumed dead. Resurrection picks up right where the story left off. We are introduced to some new characters, we lose some friends along the way, and there are many amazing resurrections from the past.

STEPH:How long did it take to write?

JENN: I have an insanely busy life that includes a three hour commute, but I was able to complete the novel in less than seven months while dipping my preverbal pen into another project as well.

STEPH: Did you do a lot of research for the novel?

JENN: I hate doing research. I think that’s why fantasy appeals to me. I can simply make it up. But I did a small smattering of research for a few facts in the early part of the book.

STEPH: Where did the inspiration for the story come from?

JENN: My own crazy imagination! As I said earlier, I have a three hour commute to work so I spend my time plotting and dreaming up stories. On a more tangible level, I’m also highly inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.

STEPH:If your story was going to be made into a movie, who would you cast as the leads?

JENN: Hands down, without a doubt and no questions asked the male lead for the character Shaw would have to be played by Kellan Lutz (Emmett from Twilight fame). As I wrote Shaw I had Kellan Lutz in mind. For the female lead of Christina Vaughn I’ve got a few lovely ladies that pop into my head. Alyssa Milano has always been a favorite. Along with Kate Beckinsale. But now I really like Sienna Guillory. Sienna has been in a lot of fantasy stuff including “Eragon” and “Inkheart”.

STEPH: What is the theme of the novel?

JENN: The overarching theme through all of The Future Savior Series is the struggle between good and evil. There is also a divine theme suggesting that there is a God in control even if we don’t see His work at times. The series is also heavy in biblical mirroring which is a treat to the Christian readers because the mirroring creates almost a scavenger hunt kind of feel. They will probably be saying to themselves at some point, “Okay, where in the Bible did the author pull that from?” or “Hey! I recognize that story!”

STEPH: What do you want readers to take away from the novel when they finish it?

JENN: A desire to want to know what happens next! After reading Book One: Conception a multitude of people told me that they could not wait to read Book Two to discover what happens next. I’m really hoping for the same reaction after they read Book Two: Resurrection.

STEPH:Do you have an ebook reader? If so, which one?

JENN: I’ve got a Kindle and I absolutely LOVE it! It is so easy and so convenient. I really like the text to speech feature and the customer service I’ve received through Amazon has been outstanding.

STEPH:What's the last movie you saw?

JENN:“King Fu Panda Two”… I have a three year old son. But I cannot wait for the final installment of Harry Potter!

STEPH: I just took my boys to Kung Fu Panda 2 yesterday! Joe is 4, so I know movie-going isn't easy for you right now. What's your writing space like?

JENN: Usually I’m cross-legged on my couch with my laptop… with plenty of chocolate or potato chips nearby.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Author Spotlight - Excerpt from He Wants Me Dead

Enjoy this excerpt from Marion's latest book:

He remembered the blood as he stepped out of the shower and hurried to shave off his day-old beard while he dripped dry. More and more, in recent days, he envisioned the blood. His mind exploded with it. As he slept, it haunted him. In his waking hours, it titillated him to new heights of excitement.

The fogged mirror refused to reflect his image, offering instead the familiar scene from the past. Grandpa stood in front of another mirror, plowing neat furrows through snowy lather. His hand clasped a straight-edged razor, capable of severing the jugular vein.

Once he saw Grandpa cut himself, and he shook with terror, but he couldn't look away from the magnificence of the gushing blood.

"Are you gonna die?" he asked. Wild exhilaration mingled with horror in his mind, making a mockery of the childish innocence of his words.

"No, son." His grandpa chuckled and wiped away the blood, leaving only the tiniest of nicks to mar the surface of his smooth-shaven skin.

He shook off the memory as he replaced his electric shaver on its shelf. He felt a longing for Grandpa's old straight-edged razor and the sight of blood, gushing from the vulnerable spot in the center of the neck. But now wasn't the time to think old thoughts. He had things to do and wanted to get out of there before his argument with Susan resurfaced. Besides, he wanted to be alone with his thoughts, with his beautiful red-blooded plans. He laughed, enjoying the conundrum and the way he could see the words flashing in his mind like a neon sign as he thought them.

In the connecting dressing room, he dressed then admired himself in the full-length mirror. The gray silk suit fit him to perfection. He reached down with a perfectly manicured finger, flicked a speck of dust off the Gucci slip-ons, and looked once more at his reflection. Important to keep up appearances.

He closed his eyes for a second and saw her as she had looked earlier when he slipped out of bed. She slept facedown in her pillow, her arms bent like folded angel wings. He had turned off the alarm before it could awaken her, and the lush carpet muffled the sound of his furtive footsteps as he left the room.

Now, studying himself critically in the mirror, he liked what he saw. Premature flecks of gray accented his sandy hair, giving it a silvery sheen. And his eyes, steel blue, added a finishing touch to his efficient image. In the same way, his burgundy paisley tie imparted the perfect look of quiet elegance to the suit.

He smiled as he picked up his briefcase and slipped back into the bedroom. But the smile froze on his face as he met Susan's icy stare. She stood at the foot of their king-size bed, looking like some beautiful, remote ice sculpture.

"This has to stop." She sounded like fury contained. Her delicate skin appeared translucent in the early morning light filtering in through the half-open blinds of the skylight.

"Now, honey." He modulated his speech to conciliatory tones. Once, that strategy had worked, but not anymore. In the not-too-distant past, he could have taken her in his arms, and she wouldn't have even remembered what she wanted to say. He had lost that advantage for the moment.

"Don't 'now honey' me." Her voice rose, bordering on hysteria, as he'd known it would. "We can't keep spending money we don't have, just to impress the Joneses."

"We're not doing it to impress the Joneses." He spoke softly, looking straight into her aquamarine eyes. He wished he could drown in them and run his hands through her long honey-blond hair, mussed now from sleep. When he worked everything out, they'd escape for a second honeymoon, and their relationship would bloom afresh with the youthful pleasure it had once held. "We agreed that we had to look successful in order to build my practice."

"You agreed. And besides, dressing right is one thing, within reason." She glanced at his suit then looked away. "But the trips abroad and the yacht and the cars. And why did you have to spend a fortune on one for James?"

"Susan." He kept his voice deathly still. "You're going to have to go back on your medication again if you don't calm down."

She cringed as if he'd slapped her, and he realized he had struck the right chord. He opened his briefcase, took out a sample packet, and pressed it into her hand. She shivered, and the little cellophane package fell soundlessly to the carpet between them. "In case you need them." He shrugged his shoulders, implying he didn't care one way or the other. He knew she hated taking the Valium but, fortunately for him, she was becoming increasingly dependent on it.

He'd been terribly afraid she'd wake the boy, and he didn't want him drawn into the quarrel. The less he heard the better. Let Susan resent the kid. Then, perhaps she'd be less likely to confide in him or attempt to persuade him to confide in her. They'd once been close, but he had worked hard to drive a wedge between them, and he intended to keep it there.

"Now, go back to bed, dear." He employed his best bedside manner. "I must get to the office. I have early appointments. I'll call later to see how you're doing."

"Don't bother." Her voice was muffled by her hands, which she held prayer-like over her mouth. She stared accusingly at him through eyes brimming with unspilled tears. Her pink silk nightgown clung to her form, leaving nothing to his imagination.
In the Lincoln, he sped unnoticed through the early morning streets, letting the air conditioning blow full force to dispel the sultry heat trapped overnight in the car. Unable to sleep well anymore, he preferred to face the day before it could get a jump on him. No sullen boy, no hassling creditors and, some mornings, no nagging wife. By nine o'clock, when the greedy bill collectors began their hounding, his secretary would keep him conveniently incommunicado behind the facade of a heavy lineup of appointments.

He switched the channels, trying to find something to fit his erratic mood, settling finally on classical music of a type that should soothe the savage creature inside him. But the ogre grasping him by the throat wasn't likely to be quieted by anything less potent than a fortune, and that was what he intended to have, by whatever means necessary. The problem was he couldn't share his secrets with Susan, or with anyone else for that matter. And until he accomplished what he'd set out to do, life -- home life in particular -- wasn't going to be worth living.


CONTEST: Leave a post for Marion or a question and a winner will be picked on Monday, 20 JUNE to receive a copy of her latest release, He Wants Me Dead

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Author Spotlight - Marion Kelley Bullock talks about the state she lives in

Texas is chock full of beautiful mountains and deserts, forests and streams, beaches and lakes -- all kinds of scenery. We've enjoyed vacationing in the Texas hill country, trips to the San Antonio River Walk and various zoos. Texas boasts stunning sunrises and sunsets, fine museums, canyons and friendly people. I've lived here most of my life and I have yet to see it all. I guess we stay way too busy to travel as much as we'd like.

What makes your state special? I'd love to hear.


Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Author Spotlight - Marion Kelley Bullock talks about how she finds inspiration

I find inspiration everywhere. I'm inspired by neighbors of all ages, school children, children in our church, and family. When I sit in a restaurant, I absorb the conversations around me. I also have vivid memories from times in the past, when I substitute taught. And I don't count completely on my memory. When I taught, I took extensive notes. Sometimes I wrote pages of conversation, the way children expressed themselves, the unique words they used. A lot of these found their way into my manuscript.


Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Author Spotlight - Marion Kelley Bullock talks about how she first got published

Several years ago, I taught preschoolers in my church. At a conference in Fort Worth one year, a leader challenged attendees to write articles relating to the age groups we worked with. I wrote two articles about 4-and 5-year-olds. The manuscripts sat on my desk for weeks. Finally, thanks to my husband's prodding, I mailed them to the editor of an age-related periodical. Then one day I received a phone call from the editor to whom I'd mailed the manuscripts. "It's' obvious you know preschool work," she said. "We want to bring you to a week-long writers' conference in Nashville. We want you to write curriculum material." I'd never flown. After I got past the fact that I'd have to fly to get there, we firmed the date. I completed that assignment and went on to write curriculum material for several more years.

I also sold short stories, essays and devotionals. At some point, I felt God nudging me to write Christian novels. I began to work on Claymore Legacy, He Wants Me Dead and Secrets of Old Santa Fe. I joined American Christian Fiction Writers and attended their conferences. My critique partners helped me immeasurably. But I felt like I worked harder on marketing than on writing. An editor at Guideposts wanted to publish one of my novels and an editor in another publishing company wanted to publish a cozy I wrote. In both cases, the novels didn't pass committee. I kept writing. Every time a novel was rejected, I rewrote it, lengthened it, tightened it or worked on another one. About that time, Deb Kinnard encouraged me to submit to Desert Breeze. I had totally re-written Secrets of Old Santa Fe. Long story short, I sent it to Gail and she accepted it. So began a happy relationship.

I'd love to hear how you first got published. Anyone want to share?


Monday, 13 June 2011

Author Spotlight - Q&A with Marion Kelley Bullock

STEPH: I don't know much about He Wants Me Dead. Tell me about it.

MARION: He Wants Me Dead tells the story of Joanna Sharpe, an idealistic young teacher, her determined suitor, a class of disturbed students, and a possible killer. Joanna begins her career believing she can move mountains all by herself. But some of her emotionally and mentally challenged students stymie her. So does Rob Thomas, father of one of her students. How should she handle his interest? And what about James, a student who insists his brother is trying to kill him? Is he really in danger? Also, who is trying to kill her or at least frighten her to death? As she tries to equip her students to succeed in the world, she realizes she must let God help, instead of tackling problems alone. And in the climax, when all their lives are at stake, a lot of heroes emerge.

STEPH: How long did it take to write?

MARION: Oh, my. It seemed to take forever. I started it several years ago. Then it bogged down and I began another writing project. When I emailed Gail about it, she was interested. My interest perked up. It's amazing how another writer's excitement intensifies mine. I suppose all writers are like that. Especially if the person who shows an interest is an editor. LOL. Well, I got busy and completed the novel in a matter of months. And Gail accepted it. It will come out in June.

STEPH: Did you have to do a lot of research for it?

MARION: I didn't have to do a lot of research. I have substitute-taught in several towns across Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. So my research was mostly taken from notes I'd made and memories I'd accumulated. Not all research comes from books, you know.

STEPH: Where did you get the inspiration for the story?

MARION: I taught in one school that had the resource class on the top floor. The kids complained about being stuck on the third floor. "What'll we do if we ever have to get outta here fast?" some of them said. One said, "I hope we don't never have a fire." Their pessimism caught hold of me, I guess I just had to latch onto their fears and write. There was definitely passion in their concerns. I didn't write the novel while I was working there. I don't think I could have done that.

STEPH: Where is the story set? How important is the setting?

MARION: My story is set in a fictitious town in Texas. The actual town is not important.

STEPH: How long have you been writing?

MARION: I've been writing for years and years. If that makes me sound ancient, well… I'm not young. If I were, I couldn't claim the years of experience I've accumulated.

STEPH: Do you have an ebook reader? If so, which one?

MARION: We bought my husband a Kindle for his birthday this year. He loves it. I'm sure I'd love it, too. But I'm crazy about my Acer Aspire One laptop he bought me for my birthday last year. We often read at the kitchen table -- when we eat breakfast or at the end of the day. You can read ebooks any time, anywhere. It's my favorite way to read. I'm totally spoiled to them.

STEPH: What was the last movie you saw?

MARION: Hmm. We see a lot of movies. Sometimes we space them. You know -- see half of one one evening and save the other half for the next night. Of course, that's because we watch Netflix. We live in a small town and seldom get to a place that has a theater. So Netflix is great! We often watch a movie again. Here are a few we've watched and enjoyed again: The Blind Side, Kramer and Kramer, The Emperor's Club, Second Hand Lions, Mr. Holland's Opus, Facing the Giants…

STEPH: Are you a plotter or a pantster?

MARION: Sometimes I outline and work out the shape of the novel first. Other times, I just start writing. Those are the two extremes. I'm much more likely to hit the middle of the road. Maybe I'll start writing out of my excitement -- my passion -- then I get stuck and I start outlining. In He W ants Me Dead, I tried to get into Joanna's head. I wrote page after page about Joanna. What is her desire? This is the path upon which she has set herself and wants to stay on as conflicts come along that try to push her off that path. The more I know about this thing she wants and why she wants it, the more possibilities for conflict (obstacle, etc). I grab another character and tap into his/her desires. If I know what each one wants, I have a better chance for interaction among them.

STEPH: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

MARION: Write about what you know about. Of course, you can research a subject you don't know much about. But you need to at least feel a sincere interest in the subject. If you hate animals, I think it's safe to say you shouldn't make them an integral part of your novel. But above all, write, write, write.


Friday, 10 June 2011

Author Spotlight - Excerpt from Temp to Permanent

Temp To Permanent Blurb

Because Carina Carrington equates happiness with success, she has a sound business and a nonexistent sex life. To replace her ailing secretary the agency sends over Greg Lawless, a secretive temp without credentials but with pecs to die for and Carina soon discovers he had exceptional office skills.

With this temp comes temptation, and Carina's problems multiply. Her strong attraction to Greg leaves her in breathless confusion. Her longing for his hard body interferes with her work.

Then Carina learns someone, perhaps even Greg, seeks to destroy her company. Torn between her belief in his innocence, and the likelihood of his guilt, Carina fires Greg, but he convinces her to give him twenty-four hours to find the one responsible.
The villain kidnaps Carina. Greg discovers her stalker's true identify and figures out where he's taken her. Her safe rescue makes his day. Then he learns he passed the bar exam, and with his future now secure can propose to his boss and reveal his past.

Temp to Permanent Excerpt

Carina Carrington's fingers flew across the computer keyboard.
Not fast enough.

She'd never meet her schedule without another pair of hands. Of all possible days, why did Rachael pick today to call in sick?
And what happened to her replacement? The temp agency had promised to send a secretary an hour ago. What was keeping her?

At the scrape of a leather shoe sole, Carina's concentration cracked.

"Hello, is anyone here?"

Startled, Carina hit a wrong key. Unless his face matches that heart-stopping voice, I'll throttle this salesman.

She abandoned the keyboard and swiveled around in her chair. Six feet of tanned muscles crossed her carpet. No way would she choke this hunk.

"There's no one at the desk out front," a husky male voice rasped.

Surrounded by masculine scent, Carina riveted her gaze on his business card, then glanced up. Devilish blue eyes locked with hers. She looked away to conceal her unprofessional, very unladylike reaction.

"I'm Gregory Lawless from Data Services. Pat Kilpatrick said to see Mrs. Carrington.

Your receptionist--"
"Has the flu."

This perfect example of centerfold material could not possibly type.

With all the work still to turn out, I'll kill Pat, instead.

Reluctantly Carina pushed back her chair and stood to shake his hand. Good grip, self-confident.

"That's why you're here, Mr. Lawless. I'm short handed today, and it's Miss

She indicated a chair and waited for him to sit. "The agency didn't say they were sending a man." Oops. Maybe employers weren't supposed to say things like that anymore.

"Is that a problem?"

"Only if you can't do the job." She wasn't about to acknowledge how difficult he made the simple act of speech.

He folded his lanky frame into the visitor's chair she'd indicated and placed a folder on her desk. "Ms. Kilpatrick asked me to give you this copy of my résumé."

A deep cleft creased his chin. How could she think with that distraction? With her weakness for cleft chins she couldn't hope to actually work around this man. His devastating smile belonged in a bedroom. In a bar. Anywhere but in her office, ruining her concentration.

Carina sank into her own chair and opened his file to study the brief list of qualifications while steadying her heart beat. San Diego Data Services normally provided exceptional help, but Pat had warned this flu epidemic had also left her short handed. Gregory must be the last healthy soul available.

Healthy? He was that, all right. From what she could see, far healthier than a man had any need to look.

He'd indicated a willingness to work. Any warm body could man the phones in her secretary's absence. What about this unexpected heat? Maybe Mom was right and she was sex-deprived.

Perhaps tomorrow Pat would have a real secretary available. Her mind pictured a prim woman. Someone wearing a skirt whose very presence wouldn't take her mind off her work.

She glanced up from the résumé to study Gregory. Information in the agency's file was scant, little more than name, address and social security number. He looked about her age. Why would a man approaching thirty resign himself to temporary work?

Carina drew a steadying breath. "Have you been with Data Services long?"

He tilted his head, obviously mulling over a reply. "This is my first assignment."

Great. Disgruntled by his admission, she looked away. Few skills and even less experience. Carina stole a glance. The smile hovering about his mouth prevented objective reasoning. "With a busy week ahead of me, there won't be much time for training."

He peered at the scribbled notes on her calendar and lifted one cocky eyebrow, giving him a rakish appearance that almost brought her out of her chair.

"Tell you what. Let's not waste any more time. Give me a chance to help and if I don't meet your requirements, you don't owe me a cent."

Desperation evident in his voice caused her to give him a sharp look. "So you're a gambler, too."

He straightened his back against the chair, then leaned forward and gazed at her. "I've nothing to lose," he admitted with admirable honesty.

Carina pondered everything she would gain if Gregory could fill Rachael's shoes. She wouldn't need to postpone tomorrow's meeting and might still land that contract.

Quick decisions were her trademark. "I'll only expect you to answer the phone. On Mondays it rings constantly."

He grinned, nodding. "How shall I answer?"

Criminey. Would she need to hold his hand and walk him through the office as well?

"Carrington Graphics will do."

"I'll manage. What is the nature of your business? Ms. Kilpatrick said you needed someone in a hurry and didn't take time to fill me in."

"Advertising." From the bookcase behind her desk Carina selected two brochures and unfolded them for Gregory to examine. "This is a terrible time to come up short handed. I've two important presentations scheduled, one tomorrow, and another on Friday. Rachael always handles my prepress. Without her, I'll never be ready."

After a moment, Gregory leaned across her desk to return the brochures. Fragrance, spicy-clean and fresh, teased her nostrils. Aftershave and a recent shower, a masculine scent far too likely to distract her, if she gave it a chance. She wouldn't, absolutely couldn't. Not this week. "I've had some experience with--"

"It's likely the phones will occupy all your time." She couldn't picture his neatly trimmed fingertips flying over a keyboard.
Imagining his hands tangled in some woman's hair though...

Easy. Far too easy.

Cut that out. "Why don't I get you settled at the front desk, Gregory."

He followed her into the outer office. "I prefer Greg."

She ignored the thump of her heart. "Greg it is."

The phone rang. Carina reached for it, only to find Greg's hand already there. He gave her a complacent look and shrugged.

"Good morning, Carrington Graphics," he said into the receiver. "How may I direct your call?" He listened a moment longer.
"Certainly, just one moment, please." He placed the caller on hold. "There's a typesetting question on line one."

"Thank you. I'll take it in my office." She rubbed the circulation back into her fingers as she walked away.

The less she heard Greg Lawless' voice, the more she'd accomplish. Carina decided, and pulled her door closed before lifting the receiver. She had her secretary's work to finish and when she hung up the phone a few minutes later, she settled down to do it.

Several hours passed before Greg's deep voice sounded over her intercom. Startled, she jumped.

"Miss Carrington, Acme Imaging called earlier. Although they promised delivery this morning by nine, they couldn't deliver before three. When I discovered they had your order ready, I sent a courier to pick it up. Nathan's here with it now."

She gripped the phone. If time allowed, she'd keep this circuit open just to hear that seductive voice speaking in her ear. "How did you know about Nathan?"

Greg chuckled. "I found him in the Rolodex. Is that all right?"

He wasn't all good looks and muscle after all. Delighted to learn initiative hid beneath his dark curly hair, she smiled for the first time today.

"Fine. I'll be right out."

Carina unlocked the petty cash drawer, withdrew a ten and re-locked it. She opened her door to sign the charge slip. Nathan gave her his usual appreciative once-over. Smiling, she pressed the tip into the courier's hand.

"Thanks, Nate. I really needed these today."

He pocketed the cash and headed for the door. "Have a good day."

Without those images it wouldn't be.

A yellow package lay on Greg's desk. She opened the envelope and slid out the contents.

"You saved me a lot of heartburn, Greg. Thanks."

His blue eyes failed to reveal his thoughts. "These are your messages. You seemed preoccupied so I took the liberty of screening your calls."

Wise move. She could easily adjust to his thoughtful manner, but found it impossible to ignore his presence. Even at her desk behind closed doors his deep voice had disrupted her thoughts.

She glanced through the stack of pink slips. Cleaners, dentist, a salesman of some kind.

"Good." Carina pulled one from the stack and held it out to him. "I need that suit for tomorrow. Have my cleaning delivered, please. There's nothing else here that can't wait."

"Yes, Miss Carrington."

His submissive reply weakened her knees. "Carina will do fine."

"But Miss Carrington--"

"I insist, and Greg, thanks again for getting those images delivered."

The phone rang and they both stared at it. Greg picked up the receiver, his well-groomed fingers caressing the mouthpiece. Her mouth went dry. He bent his dark head and jotted down a number, lifted his gaze and caught her staring.

He grinned. She blushed and her heart skipped. Four quick steps away from his desk took her to the relative safety behind her office door. She pushed it closed, leaned against it, and shut out his deep, disquieting voice.

What was wrong with her?

It wasn't every day a handsome man shared her office. Regardless, she should be able to carry on with her work. Greg had a job to do. Heaven knows, she had, too.

For a chance to win a free download on Temp To Permanent and an "I need my reading time" T-shirt, email Toni from her website. Winner will be announced on June 30.

Here's a buy link:

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Author Spotlight - Toni Noel talks about the many faces of love

Poets believe love makes the world go round, but that's too broad a premise for the novel I have in mind. I'm looking for a suitable premise for a Valentine's Day novel I hope to have published next year, so I turned to the bestselling book of all time, the Bible, for inspiration.

In First Corinthians, Chapter 13, starting with verse 4 I found inspiration for more ways to show love than I have room to list here. For instance:

'Love is patient and kind.'

I immediately pictured a young mother in the park, caring for her children, the youngest crying over a skinned knee, while at home her mother bathes her bedridden husband of sixty years.

Or a kindergarten teacher consoling the son of a fallen Marine.

And how about the mother of triplets spoon-feeding her brood. These are all excellent examples of kindness and patience, but those images didn't inspire a plot for a story that will jump off the page.

I read further.

'Love does not insist on its own way.'

A headstrong companion does, however, perhaps the first indication of a relationship on the rocks. When you truly love someone, there's an easy give and take, not a struggle for supremacy. I pictured a macho lover slapping around his mate while a toddler crouched in the corner, afraid to move, not the kind of story I want to tell.

'Love is not jealous or boastful.'

Another indication a relationship is in trouble. To truly love a mate is to give your companion room to grow. The man who boasts of his prowess in the bedroom is too dependent on the adulation of his peers. That's not the kind of hero I like to read about and I'm not anxious to write about him either.

'Love is not arrogant or rude.'

Someone who truly loves you does not put you down in public or symbolically step on your toes, hogging the conversation, or declare you don't know what you're talking about loud enough for friends or family to hear. It would be far too easy to nail this character to the page in just a few words, but that novel would only be about a page and a half long, and I doubt anyone would read that far.

'Love does not insist on its own way.'

How about the husband who tells you what to wear? The date constantly suggesting you change the way you wear your hair? These relationships are headed for heartache down the road, definitely not the kind of relationships I want to write about.

'Love bears all things.'

There are certain things a character may be certain he or she cannot bear: a child's lies, the running away of a child, an adult offspring on drugs. Infidelity. Now I'm getting somewhere, that's four possible story ideas right there.

'Love believes all things.'

... Even the things the heroine knows in her heart are not true. What if the character wants them to be true because she loves the one telling the lies. 'No, I didn't bite my sister.' 'My fifteen-year-old is still a virgin.' 'No, I didn't put that scratch on Dad's new car.' 'No, I am not having an affair.' Love blinds a character to another character's faults. This premise has merit. I might give it a try.

'Love hopes all things.'

Love forces us to hope when there is no hope. The week before a friend with terminal lung cancer died his wife said, "We can still hope."

Are good causes ever really hopeless?

Can this marriage be saved?

Will law enforcement officers find the lost child in time?

Is global warming reversible?

Can Japanese scientists find a way to stop that nuclear reactor from melting down?

If this blog has caused you to stop and think, please comment.

Did any of these verses give you a new idea?

What kind of love do you like to write about?

Which kind of love warms your heart? Fills you with joy? Brings you to tears?

Your comment might help some other writer see where her character has gone astray.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Author Spotlight - Toni Noel talks about today's libraries

Our libraries are in real trouble. A shortage of funding. Budget cuts. Shortened hours. Some doors permanently locked.

My granddaughter came to visit during spring break. She loves for me to read to her, and is crazy about children's videos, so after lunch one day I took her to the library to check out a few.

The doors were locked. I had to step over 6 teenage couples making out on the covered porch to reach the door and read the small sign displaying the library's hours.

Closed Mondays, and not open most mornings.

Our existing libraries represent a big investment of taxpayer's money, not just in books, but in videos, magazines and newspapers, computers with online capability for the cardholder's use, and all of it wasted when the doors remain closed. Our branch library is surrounded on three sides by senior citizen complexes whose residents spend most of their waking hours in the library. At least they did.

On hot days in Southern California elderly residents are urged to seek shelter in the library to stay cool. Most day that won't be possible this summer. Once their next in line on the librarian's signup sheet, the unemployed, and our city has many, can apply for jobs and send out resumes on line for the entire twenty minutes of their computer time. That means sending out 4 or 5 resumes if they type fast, but not if the doors are locked. These are jobless people without cars.

Is this happening in your neighborhood too? Are your schools, recreation centers and libraries feeling the brunt of the budget cuts? If the answer is yes, it's time you take a stand.

It's time for the younger generation to take a stand. City officials get tired of listening to senior citizens complain. I've had my turn. Thirty years ago I pestered the City Council until my (closed on Mondays branch library was finally built. I'm seventy-eight-years-old now and no longer able to take a stand, but young mothers whose toddlers enjoy the library's weekly story hour can and should. The parents of teens locked out of the library during spring break can, and should.

You can, and should.

Please leave a comment on this DBP sight to show someone else besides me cares about the future of our libraries.

And visit my blog for more on this subject:

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Author Spotlight Week -Toni Noel shares her passion for Romantic Suspense

Right after 'Write what you know' should come 'Write what you love to read.' A third rule should be 'Write what readers want to read.' Currently Romantic Suspense is outselling all other genres.

I love to read a good romantic suspense, the kind of book guaranteed to makes you burn the hard boiled eggs and forget to pick up your son after baseball practice. The kind of book you can't put down, with characters you fall in love with on page one, laugh with, cry with and almost die with before the end of the book.

All great reads, but not as easy to write as you may think. Writing romantic suspense is far more complicated than writing a straight romance. I have to remember to sow seeds of doubts, plant red herrings and put off solving the mystery to allow the hero and heroine time to fall in love, not an easy goal.

Plotting these novels is like carefully shuffling two decks of cards. One deck represents the mystery, the other the romance. All the events must be seamlessly merged or the reader will be drawn out of the story and is likely to throw the book across the room. Or delete it from her eReader, a new and possible threat for writers.

And yes, I'm a true believer in romance. If my hero and heroine face death before morning, they're bound to spend their last night in hiding in each other's arms. In Temp To Permanent, my romantic suspense just released by Desert Breeze Publishing, right before Carina gets kidnapped, Greg and Carina spend a night in each other's arms, all the more reason for Greg to find the woman he loves and save her life.

I prefer to read books where the hero seeks the heroine's help to catch a bad guy and they fall in love while thrown together, not books where there is no romance, and I have a long list of authors who never disappoint me. I'll share a few with anyone who leaves a comment here.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Author Spotlight - Q&A with Toni Noel, author of Temp to Permanent

STEPH: I don't know much about Temp To Permanent. Can you tell me a little more about?

TONI: In Temp To Permanent, the beleaguered owner of an advertising firm is thrown for a loop when the temp agency sends her a male replacement for her secretary who has the flu. This man is all she's ever want in a lover, but she's doubtful he'll be able to manage her busy phones.

Greg surprises Carina. His skill with computer graphics far exceeds her secretary's ability, and Carina's thriving business returns to normal, until troublesome things start happening, little irritating things that slow down their production, until the petty cash disappears. Carina suspects Greg is a plant sent by her competition to force her company to fail. Will the attraction she has for him survive her suspicions?

STEPH: How long did it take to write?

TONI: It takes me six weeks to write the first draft of a novel, and may take several years to polish it for submission. During the Temp To Permanent revision I began to wonder who wants to pick up a book about a lady boss who can't keep her hands off the temp help, but must? The situation was already humorous, or could become erotic, which ever I chose.

Not erotic, I was certain. Maybe what I needed was a good mystery to distract my characters, but for them to work more closely together, a situation rife with opportunities for romance. That's why I added the mystery. It gave my characters a problem to solve other than the sexual harassment one they'd face if either acted on their desires.

STEPH: Did you do a lot of research for the novel?

TONI: No research was need for this novel. Authors are instructed to write what they know. I'd worked in accounting offices for thirty years. I knew all about the subtle games office workers play, but there was nothing the least bit romantic about our accounting department. We were kept too busy for office intrigue, so I needed a different setting for my novel and decided on a quieter office situation for my characters, a business with only two employees. I wanted a place where a hero and heroine already attracted to each other would be forced to spend time together in conference every day, rubbing elbows, you might say. I already knew a little about computer graphics. The last company I worked for designed and built remotely controlled underwater vehicles. I interviewed a few of those designers, questioned the owner of a graphic arts business and started writing.

STEPH: Where did the inspiration for the story come from?

TONI: Prior to year end close ach year, I interviewed and hired a temp to take over my timecard duties while I produced financial reports and worked the accounting year close. One year I hired a male temp, not because of his drop-dead looks, but because of his obvious skills. He had an accounting degree and office experience, and best of all, required little training before I was able to tackle my work without interruption. Not so for the rest of the company. Even the married female employees hung out of their cubicles each day when he made his rounds.

STEPH: If your story was going to be made into a movie, who would you cast as the leads?

TONI: Greg would look like Sean Penn, with twinkling blue eyes and curly black hair. Carina would be a young Glenn Close.

STEPH: What is the theme of the novel?

TONI: The theme of Temp To Permanent is Love finds a way. Carina is convinced Greg lacks ambition. In reality, he's ashamed of his past failures, and refuses to talk about his past. To Carina, her father lacked ambition and determined not to fall for someone without goals in his life. She's a highly ambitious, successful businesswoman who has scratched her way to the top of her field, but has recently realized she is unhappy with her current life. Something is missing. She's not sure what until Greg walks into her office and she discovers she wants the very thing she cannot legally have: her temp.

STEPH: What do you want readers to take away from the novel when they finish it?

TONI: I always want my readers to finish my novels with the satisfaction of a happy ending, a resolution that leaves them smiling, and memories of a couple whose newly found love warms their heart long after they read 'The end.

STEPH: Do you have an eBook reader? If so, which one?

TONI: My husband gave me one of the first Nooks, bought when they were still pricey. I have a cover for it that feels like suede and folds back flat when I'm reading. I also have a light for it, but am yet to need it.

My husband recently bought a mini-computer for me to use in the motor home, so I also download .pdf files, copy them to a flash drive and read on the mini. In some ways I like it better.

STEPH: How important was the setting to the novel?

STEPH: Here again, write what you know influenced this novel. For several years I was the accountant for a local hotel and worked at San Diego's Embarcadero. This city's main business district is located a few blocks east of the bay, and all up-and-coming business owners need easy access to downtown, so Carina's opened her business in Little Italy, a stones-throw from downtown, and Greg rented an apartment in Old Town to avoid a lengthy freeway drive to where he hopes to eventually work. This setting gave my characters scenic views right outside their doors, and excellent places to dine while they became better acquainted.

STEPH: What's your writing space like?

STEPH: I emptied a spare bedroom for my office. My desk, a six foot door, turns the floor space into a mini-maze. Four tall, stuffed bookshelves line the wall I face when I write. One narrow end is beneath the window. The other end protrudes into the room, parallel to the bookcases and the sewing machine at my back. When we have company, this room becomes a catchall room for odd , collecting things we'd like to keep out of sight, items that never seem to find their back out of here, so not, my office is not neat, no many how many classes I take on organizing my writing space, but it almost serves my needs.
You'd think with a six foot desk I'd have plenty of room.


STEPH: Thanks for popping in, Toni! It was great to have you on the blog today!

Friday, 3 June 2011

Author Spotlight - Excerpt from Burning Hearts

Chapter One

Long Island, New York
September 1946

Erica Brogna hurried down Hill Street, eager to sketch her new design, a forest green taffeta dress with a swirling skirt for a twenty-fifth wedding anniversary -- her first significant assignment. She paused to inhale the salt scent on the ocean breeze, and her gaze lingered on a copse of red, rust, and gold maples near Ada's house and dress shop.

She smiled, pulling her cardigan tight around her, and dropped the newspaper Poppa asked her to bring to her mentor and employer. She retrieved the paper and saw Bess Truman smiling as she entered Walter Reed Army Hospital. With the war over, the First Lady visited broken soldiers in long-term care. Erica slapped the paper closed before rage and depression overtook her. So many boys had not come home.

Chin jutted out, she smoothed the pleats of her skirt and marched toward Ada's house. She'd think on pleasant things and hand the paper over without a fuss as she did every morning. Nothing would ruin this day.

She climbed Ada's wooden front steps and opened the door.

Smoke filled the living room Ada had turned into a fabric shop. Erica waved a hand in front of tearing eyes. Gray vapors, like swirling fog, partially obscured bolts of fabric stacked against the opposite wall.

"Ada! Ada, answer me please." Dropping the newspaper, Erica rushed toward the stairs, trampling Bess Truman's image. "Ada can you hear me?"

Coughing, she grabbed on to the cutting table in the middle of the room, steadied herself, and reached for the phone -- no dial tone. Perhaps the fire melted the line.

She yanked the collar of her blouse over her nose and mouth against the smoke. The stairs loomed before her, seeming as impossible to scale as Mount Everest. She lunged forward, gripping the baluster, and thrust herself up two steps. Since Ada wasn't outside, she had to be upstairs.

As Erica climbed, the smoke thickened and swirled around her. It was darker with each step.

One hand clasped the rail and pulled, and she advanced a few more steps. Heat blasted against her skin from above, and soft crackling sounds drew her gaze to the upstairs landing. Squinting into the smoke, she lost her grip on the banister, missed the next step, and fell backward tumbling to the bottom.

The back of her head smacked against the baluster, and wooziness followed sharp pain. She tried to stand but couldn't get her bearings.
Will triumphed over ability. She hoisted herself, ignoring the dull throb at the back of her skull. Her palms stung, the skin scraped off during her fall. She took a deep breath, and a coughing fit seized her. Shallow breaths were the better alternative.
Planting her penny loafer on the bottom step, Erica began her climb again, shaken but with new resolve. If she could reach the top of the stairs, she could also make it to Ada's bedroom.

Halfway up, the scratches on her palms pulsated as the temperature rose. So did her knees -- must've scraped those, too. The pungent smoke shrouding her darkened, and grit clung to her skin. She couldn't see the banister or the top of the stairs and each breath took effort.

Poppa's lectures on fire drills flashed into mind -- stay low in a fire to get fresh air. She dropped to her knees and crawled, ignoring her pain. A sickening smell made her stomach lurch.

Inch by inch she crept, now three quarters of the way up. Hot, putrid air assaulted her windpipe, and she doubled over, her insides trembling.

Heaving herself forward, she maneuvered up one more step, but the smoke pushed back, choking her. She sobbed, knowing she couldn't make it to Ada, and scrambled down, hoping she could find help.


Moderator's Note: Leave a comment today, Saturday or Sunday on today's excerpt and a winner will be drawn out of a hat on MONDAY to receive a copy of Nike's book. All I ask is that you when you comment, leave a contact email so we can get a hold of you if you win. Nike will get with you on Monday to see what format you'd like it in. Winner will post on this blog post and on the Desert Breeze Connections Loop on Monday.

Thanks so much for joining Nike here on Spotlight week.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Author Spotlight - Nike Chillemi shares her favorite authors

I have a lot of favorite authors. As pretty much everyone knows, I read crime fiction. I wasn't aware of too much in the crime fiction department in Christian fiction for a good long while. I guess it took me awhile to catch up to where some Christian authors were going in terms of grittiness. So, I pretty much read secular authors.

For two to three years, every time I ventured into reading what I was assured was a seat-of-the-pants Christian suspense; it turned out to be the same-old, same-old romantic suspense story with many implausible elements and the police procedure really off the mark.

During that time I read everything I could get my hands on by Michael Connelly, the former crime beat reporter for the LA Times. He writes the infamous Harry Bosch homicide detective series. Connelly has got another intriguing character, Mickey Haller. THE LINCOLN LAWYER, one of the Haller books, was recently made into a movie that did very well in reviews and at the box office. In the beginning years of my writing, Connelly influenced my writing more than any other writer in terms of what cop culture really is. He gets his police and court procedure really right.

Then I discovered Robert Liparulo, and began to see how faith issues could be interwoven into the inner turmoil a character was experiencing. I went totally berserk over Liparulo for about a year. Every time I opened my mouth it was Liparulo, Liparulo.

Now if anyone thinks my writing is going to be anything like Connelly's or Liparulo's, they're going to be sadly disappointed. Hey, first of all, hey, I'm female. Like most ladies, I like a goodly dose of romance in the story. I've been told that my break out novel BURNING HEARTS has suspense, action, and romance in equal measure with a bit of humor thrown into the mix.

Other Christian market favorites are J. Mark Bertrand, Steven James, Sibella Giorello, James Scott Bell. My other general market favorites are Robert Crais, Barbara Parker, J.A. Jance.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Author Spotlight - Nike Chillemi shares her thoughts about "The Lincoln Lawyer"

Matthew McConaughey stars as low-rent defense attorney Mickey Haller in the recently released The Lincoln Lawyer, taken from the bestselling novel of the same name written by Michael Connelly. I wanted to see the movie because I loved the book and also because Michael Connelly's writing has influenced me greatly as a writer of mysteries. The other reason was McConaughey is not hard to look at…oh, pluck my eyes out!

Mickey Haller, Esq. keeps body and soul together in the sprawl of Los Angeles working out of the back of his chauffeured car, an older Lincoln Continental kept in mint condition. His clientele is, shall we say, a tad less that reputable. Okay, they're mostly degenerates. So, when a chance comes along to defend a rich playboy accused of rape, he thinks he's hit the jackpot. Mickey soon figures out he's been set up and trapped in a twisted scenario where an innocent man may have gone to prison and a guilty one will go free. The only way to survive and right a wrong is to out weasel the weasel.

The movie adaptation was a good one, in my opinion. It didn't try to sanitize the story, but instead left in all the grit. Marisa Tomei brilliantly plays Mickey Haller's ex-wife, mother of his child, colleague, and now friend. William Macy portrays Haller's private investigator with a secret or two in his past. The movie is first rate about a less than perfect lawyer, playing all the angles trying to stay afloat in a dog-eat-dog world, who just might want to see right, not wealth and might, prevail.